MGMT – “Congratulations”

MGMT exploded onto the scene in 2008 with the fireworks that was Oracular Spectacular. And the two lead singles, Time To Pretend and Kids kept licensing lawyers busy for months. Their difficult second album Congratulations arrived in April 2010, and tellingly, the first thing they did was to announce that there wouldn’t be any singles released from it. Anyone hoping for more of the same was clearly in for a disappointment.

The truth of the matter is though, that those famous singles weren’t actually terribly representative of the album as a whole. So Congratulations, despite the dearth of obvious singles, carries on where Oracular left off. MGMT are what Boland and Bowie might have sounded like if they’d taken what they were doing in the first half of the seventies, and developed it further into the second half.

Like most of the best music coming out of north America at the moment, it’s steeped in the sounds and feel of the UK in the late seventies and early eighties. And, as with a lot of these bands, you have the distinct feeling that if you were only able to pick up on half of the musical references slyly alluded to here, you might very well enjoy the album almost a much as the people making it.

What lifts this album from the merely clever to the thoroughly infectious are the duo’s impeccable gift for melody. It’s almost as if they can’t help themselves. Try as they might to knuckle down and produce something serious, those damn tunes keep bursting forth. Hence the confusion that exists on where they stand on the indie/pop axis.

Whatever about their immediacy, these songs have a satisfying sense of having been consciously constructed. Someone’s Missing takes a minute and three quarters to build up at 33 rpm, before its melody finally bursts forth at a joyous 45. And then, as quickly as it began, it’s over. Brian Wilson’s legacy lives on. Similarly, the monumental feel to Flash Delirium gives it an expansive sense of permanence. While Lady Gaga’s Nightamare nods respectfully at The Smiths’ Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me, without ever treading on its toes. And don’t be put off by Siberian Breaks’ 12 minutes. It’s really just a medley of three of four songs sewn together, and all the better for it.

In short, if you missed it first time around and you’re looking for some sonic adrenalin, enjoy.

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